“I could’ve felt so much better, sooner, if I had just got the help I needed.”
People have come to trust Steve Karlin. He’s been a steady, strong presence in central Iowa news for years. He’s worked at KCCI External Site for more than 30 years; the last five as a lead anchor. But it’s his personal journey that has captured the interest of many of his viewers. That’s because Karlin has opened up about an illness many people have, but hardly anyone — particularly men — talk about.
Karlin went public with his story more than two years ago, on Sept. 2, 2018.
“It was probably the most important realization of my life,” he says. “At the time, Lynn and I had been married for 24 years, and our daughters, Maisie and Lucy, were young adults. So much of their lives had gone by with me as a depressed person. I was angry with myself and ashamed. But that day, I decided to go public in a Facebook post.”
Going public about mental health
Here are a few excerpts from Karlin's social media posts related to his mental health journey.
... Lynn and I were sorting through old pictures today and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Maisie is 21 and Lucy is 18 and it wasn’t until a few months ago that I became much more like the father I have always wanted to be. I have suffered from depression my whole life and I was recently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). I am seeking counseling and treatment for both. It’s working very well and I now have an entirely new outlook on life.
…It dawned on me how much my depression and ADD had negatively impacted [my family]. I could have been more patient all those years, should have worked harder to erase the ever-present negativity from my mind, but my mental illness wouldn’t let me.
….My relationships with my wife and kids have always been good, but they could have been so much better. Today and from now on I am committed to making them the best that they can be.
…I am not seeking sympathy or praise. I am simply telling my highly personal truth because I don’t want anyone else to live as long as I did with conditions that are so correctable. If you think you or someone you know may have a form of mental illness, please seek help. Life with it under control is wonderful. Please don’t be like me and wait so long.
In no time, responses began flooding in. “I was blown away,” says Karlin. “It was gratifying, but also heart wrenching. There are just so many people who need help because of anxiety and depression.”
Questions and answers on mental health with Steve Karlin
Here, Karlin answers some questions about the time leading up to his diagnosis and treatment, and what life is like for him now.
What made you want to go public with your story?
Well, I’m a journalist, so putting pen to paper is how I express myself. Also, I hope others can learn from what I’ve been through, and get the help they need, sooner. There is such a stigma surrounding mental health, and by being candid about my struggle, maybe I can help others see that it’s OK to come forward and talk about it.
What kind of response did you get?
It was overwhelming. Some people have shared their deepest, darkest problems with me. A number have stayed in contact. There have been some successes, but so many are still struggling or don’t have the resources they need. I learned that my case is mild compared to others, and while I experience occasional speedbumps, other people are facing roadblocks. It’s hard enough for someone like me. It’s much harder for people who don’t have the same advantages.
How long have you struggled with depression?
I have always had depression, I just didn’t recognize it until I was 58. I had these feelings throughout childhood, I just didn’t know what it was. Now, when I feel myself having a depressive episode, I realize what’s going on and I do my best to talk myself down.
What prompted you to seek help?
My daughter started receiving treatment help for ADD. She talked to me about it and encouraged me to see her doctor. There, I learned that yes, I have ADD. But I also learned that I have depression. I had just learned to overlook or push aside all the telltale symptoms.
What kind of symptoms did you have?
When I had deep depression, it was like wearing a lead overcoat. It was physically uncomfortable, lugging it around all the time. I was so busy carrying it around, it was hard to deal with anything else that came my way. At home, I could be withdrawn and angry. I don’t want to give the impression I was “Mr. Grumpy” all the time, it just reared its head every once in a while. It pains me to think of my kids seeing me that way. We have talked a lot about it. They know that yes, I’m a flawed person. But I’m working on my flaws, and I’m going to do my best. Thankfully, my wife and kids are amazing. They really are.
What kind of treatment do you receive?
It’s changed a bit over time, but I currently take a prescription medication and see a psychologist every two weeks. After a couple weeks of therapy, I said to my wife, “Is this how normal people feel? If I could feel this way all the time, it would be astounding!” Of course, I still have my bad days, but I am much more able to manage them.
What have you learned from therapy?
I have a fantastic life, better than I ever dreamed. Yet somehow I have trouble feeling worthy. So, I’m finding strength in knowing I am worthy. I’ve learned happiness is fleeting; it comes and goes. Contentment is what I’m aiming for. And if there is one person on this earth who should be content, it is me. So, I’m working on it.
Did depression affect you at home, work, or both?
I throw myself into my work, where I have learned to put out small fires quickly. But this approach doesn’t work at home, because long-term personal and emotional problems are tougher to overcome. It takes time.
How did it affect you when you were younger?
In my childhood, I remember times when I wanted to cry, but I would do everything I could to push back those feelings. I didn’t want my parents to see me like that. Showing emotion was the equivalent of self-pity. I was supposed to toughen up. Be a man. I think this is quite common for men of my generation — and sadly, many kids today — who are raised to believe their feelings aren’t valid. Now, I can see it for what it is. You’re human. You feel things. And feelings are valid. Now, I know what to do with those feelings. It’s empowering.
Has anxiety ever led you to feelings of depression?
Yes. For me, anxiety over life-altering events can trigger a depressive episode. For example, when I was younger, I was so afraid of leaving my comfortable little world and go to college. I knew it was a huge step. I didn’t face those feelings. My anxiety resulted in a deep depression. I had to drop out of college; I just couldn’t do it in that state.
How has your life changed since your diagnosis and treatment?
I always said and did the right things before; now I’m doing them. This is another way of saying I’m way more open and empathetic. I’m just more open about my feelings now. I’m not preoccupied with what’s going on in my head. The connections are better, deeper, more meaningful.
How has your mental health treatment helped your own family?
I treat them better. And that makes all the difference because ultimately, I’m a people pleaser. But I can’t please the people I love if all I’m thinking about is how angry I am, or what indignity I’ve suffered. Let’s face it, the people I love most won’t remember me by my work or the awards I’ve received. But they will remember how I treated them.
Why do you think some men push aside mental health issues?
A lot of it has to do with pride and our warped ideas of masculinity. Let’s face it, guys are supposed to be “large and in charge.” You know, we’re kind of programmed to approach a problem like it’s a gnat; just swipe at it and move on. Often, we don’t dig deep enough to notice the underlying problem.
If you could offer advice to others, what would it be?
It’s not always up to you to determine if you have a problem. You must listen to other people. Especially the people you hold dearest in this world. I should have listened to my wife. You know, it took me 58 years to get to this point. I could’ve felt so much better, sooner, if I had just got the help I needed.
Typical signs of depression
Everyone's moods swing up and down, but in major or clinical depression, negative thoughts and feelings persist daily for weeks to months. Typical signs of depression External Site include:
- Feeling sad, hopeless or "empty"
- Feeling irritable, anxious or angry
- Loss of interest in work, family or once-pleasurable activities
- Feeling very tired, not being able to sleep or sleeping too much
- Overeating, or not wanting to eat at all
- Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
- Inability to meet the responsibilities of work, caring for family, or other important activities.
What makes depression in men different?
For most people, the word “depressed” means “sad.” But men with depression may appear to be angry or aggressive instead of sad External Site. They are also more likely to use alcohol or drugs and engage in risky behavior, such as reckless driving.
Find the treatment that works for you
If you or someone you know suffers from a mental health condition, it's important to find support and get the right treatment. Log in or register for myWellmark® Opens New Window to find a mental health provider in your network and to check your benefits before receiving services. You may also have access to a virtual mental health provider through Doctor On Demand® External Site.